Supa Dups: Hit-making in Miami
Producer and DJ, Dwayne Chin-Quee, is best known to the world as Supa Dups, an alias that has worked with a heady list of clients, some of which being Eminem, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, and Drake. He is a man of Chinese and Jamaican heritage, and the influence of reggae and dub music is heard in most of the songs he produces. As he sits down with his morning coffee, we’re keen to know how he’s been.
“I’ve been extremely busy, but also very thankful and grateful for where I’m at,” he tells us, in his thick Jamaican accent. “Too many people wake up in the morning being so negative. They're like, 'damn it, I have to do this today, and do that today’, but I just give thanks to everything that I have; and then I start my day.”
He repeats a quote he’d heard just the night before:
“I’m blessed with everything I need, I work hard towards everything I want; and most importantly, I appreciate and thank God for what I have.”
The most blaringly obvious place to base yourself as a producer in the states is, of course, Los Angeles, but Supa Dups has diligently stuck with Miami. It's where he's most comfortable, he explains:
“I was born in Jamaica, but I was raised in Miami. Is Miami the best place in the world for music? I don’t know. But the Internet has made the world a smaller place. The place to be right now for music is obviously LA, But I’m not moving from Miami right now; Miami is home to me.The difference between a lot of producers and I is, I’m already established, because of the years I’ve been in the business. If you’re established first, you can move anywhere you want to go.”
Having not spent much of his life in Jamaica, one would presume that his great passion for reggae music is familial.
“Well, my brother had a DJ shop, selling all the equipment, and eventually it got into records, and all of that; I would say that was the main thing that got me involved," Supa Dups reveals. "I started out as a DJ first before producing, when I was 11 or 12, and then many years later, I formed [my DJ collective] Black Chiney."
Years of the DJ lifestyle became less glamorous over time, though, and led Supa Dups down the production path.
“After going around the world many times, I was just like, ‘I’m ready to do something else.’ That's when I started producing. I got married and had kids," he says, laughing,"so going out and DJing didn’t have that same appeal. You know what I mean? Having girls jumping all over the place and jumping on you, and I’m like, ‘You know what, I’m alright. I love my wife!'"
For someone who’s worked with such a roster of A-list clients, we couldn’t help but ask if there have been any particular artist experiences that stand out in his mind. Many, it turns out:
“I mean, I’ve worked with so many of them, and every one of them is so talented in their own unique way. Even working with Bruno [Mars]; he is extremely talented. If you were to be in a room with him when he’s working, you’d just be like, ‘wow'," he says. And what about reggae band, Soja, which saw you produce a live band for the first time? “There was nobody that showed me how to do that! [smiles] Soja had just been used to doing things in a certain way, and they wanted to try a new way, so that's what we did.”
Conversation turns to music technology, an area that Supa Dups is particularly passionate about. He’s been an advocate of RME Audio for some time, ultimately for sound quality and overall functionality.
“RME has been part of my life since the early 2000s, actually," Supa Dups reflects. "I am currently using the RME Babyface Pro interface. What I like is that it’s portable; it’s made of aluminium and feels, but also sounds, fantastic.”
So it’s made your life more convenient then?
“Oh, absolutely. I mean, I had the first Babyface product, which was great, but this is definitely an improvement, because now I don’t have to plug in a damn wire! [laughs] Usually, if you leave home and you forget a wire, your life is over, but with this, I don’t have to worry about that, as it's USB. And it sounds a lot, lot better.”
Any other pieces of gear keeping you excited at the moment?
“I’ve been getting really into mics recently," he says, with noticeable enthusiasm. “Typically German mics. I look for the value, but I like the history, too. “I love Microtech Gefell. You know that’s the oldest microphone company in the world, originally started by George Neumann? The Neuman U87 is a [studio] standard, it trials good on everything; and I have the Neumann M149, which is an absolute marvel of engineering. I also have a Horch RM2J.”
Asking Supa Dups about what he’s working on at the moment turns out to be a tricky question – we find out that producers are always in a state of flux.
“I never talk about what’s going to come out because honestly, you don’t know if it’s going to come out," he says, with a smile. It turns out that he will work on a track, and there’s zero guarantee it will ever see the light of day. “I will literally do 100 songs a year, and then maybe five will come out. The rejection rate is high. That’s one of the reasons I like to play live – then nothing gets rejected!”
Supa Dups is a rare producer in his humble and grateful nature, and his wisdom from both years as a producer and being in the music industry could potentially be valuable for many young producers. Watch out for the upcoming Drake singles, Controlla, and Too Good (which features Rihanna) for that excellent Supa Dups production sound.
Words by Adam Protz